And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. (Luke 22:2)
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:55-60)
The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus away from the public eye because they feared the people. Peter denies association with Jesus, despite earlier claiming that he would die for him, and there can be no other reason than fearing that the people around him would drag him into the same position Jesus was.
Fear of man is a powerful motivator. It motivated Peter to lie and desert his best friend. It motivated the religious leaders to reject the son of God and kill him. And it motivates pretty much everything we say or do. What will people think if I...?
The only solution is a better fear. The fear of God. Matt Chandler recently said we are like people who are scared of domestic cats but go and slap a lion in the face. Why do we care so little about what God thinks, but live our lives based on what other people think? When we see God's holiness and love it sets us free from the fear of man because we realise the one we should really fear is God, and in him we have nothing to fear because of Jesus.